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December, 2004
Exploring exploration
by Levente Polyák
It is not every day that a festival manages to accommodate the art of the contemporary community that functions primarily in the urban context and has a strain of critical impulse – without dulling its encompassing critical scene. It seems that the organisers of the renewed Budapest Autumn Festival counted on just such a challenge, if we consider the event series that they assembled, which not only occurs in present time, but to the same extent in the surrounding, living space. From the perspective of engaging with the events of the festival, the invitation extended to the e-Xplo group (from New York and Berlin) was a bull’s-eye as far as urban context is concerned: e-Xplo’s performance – taken one step away from the direct excitement of the discovery and re-introduction of urban space – examined the nature of discovery, to be exact, circulating the question of sustainability of critical and documentarist approaches.

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From North Adams Transcript
July, 2004
Art On Wheels Exhibit Moves Audience
by John E. Mitchell

Mass MoCA's fun new Art Trolley rattles its passengers with its insight as well as its motor.

Utilizing one of the city trolleys to shuttle people between the North Adams located museum and the Clark Art Institute, the mobile exhibit brings new meaning to the designation "art scene movers and shakers" since it moves and shakes its way through area streets.

Outfitted with speakers to play the sound collage work of the artist collective e-Xplo, the trolley is vessel to the two -part art experience "Roundabout." The sounds are drawn from interviews with residents, as well as the ambient sounds of the city, and spoken word performances by artists reciting local words, with musical accompaniment.

Half the show is heard through the speakers, the other half is viewed through the windows. North Adams is transformed into your own personal neo-realist landscape. The people outside become linked up with the sounds inside -- two kids race their bikes alongside the trolley, one rough-looking guy with a bandana around his head and a scowl on his face stares at the trolley intensely, aware that there was something unfamiliar on the landscape. I couldn't tell if he was hostile or curious or somewhere in between.

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February 10, 2004
e-Xploring East London
by Laura Sullivan

Last November the art group e-Xplo guided visitors to East London in a nightly 'part bus tour, part electro-acoustic music performance and part public talk'. Laura Sullivan, as a newcomer to the city and one of the passengers, explores how this guided encounter with the ubiquitous dumps and visible social divisions challenged the tourist's idealised picture of London.

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From Libération
February 04, 2004
Media-art. A Berlin, le CTM trouve un nouveau souffle. Chansons de gestes

ÇSi le tourisme, c'est dŽcouvrir des endroits inexplorŽs de la ville, alors, oui, il s'agit en quelque sorte d'une promenade touristiqueÈ, s'amuse l'un des trois membres d'e-Xplo, groupe d'artistes international, spŽcialisŽ dans les excursions dŽviantes. Aprs une pause dans un terrain vague, battu par la pluie, les voyageurs remontent dans le bus amŽnagŽ pour poursuivre leur Žtrange balade nocturne ˆ travers Berlin : avenues rectilignes de bŽton ŽgayŽes par les nŽons des stations d'essence, zones industrielles immobiles, prison au coin d'une banlieue pavillonnaire... Le tout bercŽ par une composition Žlectroacoustique jouŽe en live, mŽlangŽe ˆ des textes, pomes ou chansons Žvoquant Berlin et les paysages urbains. La virŽe se transforme en un Žtrange cinŽma itinŽrant

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May 3, 2002 Sezione: Cultura (National Section)
on the occassion of BIG TORINO 2002

Ride la scavatrice sotto la luna di Big

(Del 3/5/2002 Sezione: Cultura Pag. 21)

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click here to read our own material about rISO AROMA



From the Village Voice
Week of March 27 - April 2, 2002
The Sound of the City
' Get on the Bus' by Douglas Wolk

The electro-acoustic/sound-collage group e-Xplo has figured out how to make people pay attention to a nearly two-hour-long piece: Stick them on a speeding bus. As the venue for their "Picnolepsy" drove around downtown Manhattan last Thursday night, then zoomed up the West Side Highway and back down Broadway, we were a perfectly captive audience, watching the city fly by our tinted windows and listening to what Rene Gabri, Heimo Lattner, and Erin McGonigle were mixing.

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click here to read our own material aboutPICNOLEPSY

From Time Out NY
Issue No. 297 May 31-June 7, 2001 Beat box
Lost highway

Given the relentless noise, dirt and dilapidated sights presented by NYC's highways, you wouldn't think that anyone would choose to spend time on them especially with no destination in mind. But cruising those roads in a tour bus, with improvised, ambient electronic music replacing car horns and wind as the soundtrack, see ed like it just had to be a good idea. And that's exactly what the sound-art group e-Xplo had in store for us with 65 MPH: Exhilarated Voy ges into the Detours of Pure Chance, a bus tour and sound-art project in one. (Wolf)

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Form theVillage Voice Short List: Open City
'65 MPH' Installation and sound artists Rene Gabri, Heimo Lattner, and Erin McGonigle are the "topographical agents" for a soundtracked nighttime bus tour through the city's highway landscapes. It should be anything but multimedia masturbation. Their amazing first tour, Dencity (of deliriously industrial Maspeth, Greenpoint, and Williamsburg), fused the earthy introspection of an Ennio Morricone score with the deadpan detail of Edward Ruscha's Every Building on the Sunset Strip. A very textural soundstream (mixed live, from rich field recordings of the sites) and the cinematic route are the catalyst for your own sound-vision of this circuitous town. A cushy tour bus helps. (Zimmerman) 5/01

From Associated Press: May 16, 2001
"Sound-Art Performance Hits Road" by Miranda Leitsinger

NEW YORK (AP) — On a recent chilly Saturday night, about 20 people wait to load a tour bus. Some joke around and sip Budweisers from brown bags, while others look serious and quiet.

The bus takes off into the night for an hourlong exploration of the glamorous roads, thoroughfares and highways of New York City.
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From Artbyte Magazine (March/April 2001 Vol 3 No. 6)
by Carly Berwick

The bus moves slowly east, away from the galleries, cafés, and shops that have sprung up along the streets of Williamsburg’s north side, now a trendy artist and working-class enclave. Ten minutes into the quiet trip—there is no narration—a symphony of groans, clangs, and syncopated twitters, mixed live by two sound artists, issues from the back of the vehicle. The tour meanders past car-part lots, warehouses, and 24-hour delis to its promised land: blocks and blocks of waste-management treatment facilities serving New York City.
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From the New York Times:
And Off to Your Left, The Beautiful Sewage Plant

DILAPIDATED factories, sewage plants and garbage dumps are not your usual tourist attractions. But in Williamsburg, where even the political is expressed artistically, they are highlights of an unusual tour...
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From the Village Voice Short List: Open City (Zimmerman)

DENCITY BUS TOUR Billed as "a kind of Huck Finn on land . . . a geographic event space," this sound-tracked nighttime ride through the ominous industrial zones and tangy creeks of northern Brooklyn and southern Queens bypasses urban shabby-chic for an introspective and physiographic view. Mixmasters Rene Gabri, Heimo Lattner, and Erin McGonigle provide a good loud score that cashes in melody for texture and site-related physicality (radio-static beats, car-service CBs, and lots of mysterious squelching and clanking), leaving soul and groove somehow intact. The cemetery summit is breathtaking, as is the drive past Greenpoint's massive sewage plant. 12/00



Wired: Culture
Rumblin' Through the Crumblin'

A trio of artists drive paying customers through the desolate streets of a decrepit Brooklyn neighborhood on a bus, accompanied by minimalist electronic music. 'Dencity' is art on wheels. (click link above for full article) 11/00

From Flyer, No. 29: December

This sounds fucking weird, but we are SO there. The basic premise is to drive around in a bus on a tour of Brooklyn at night, listen to electro-acoustic music and look at all the cool buildings. And yes, of course, Williamsburg residents came up with this. But do something different! Don't just rot in that same old stank club each week. Get your musical, architectural, and public-transportation groove on at the same time. Let the Dencity crew take you on a tour of "NYC's hideen urban landscapes." It will be a nice change for Flyer, as we are used to hanging out in the bathroom of the depot, as opposed to actually riding in the bus. Tour starts and ends at Parker's Box, Grand St. Williamsburg.



From Die Tageszeitung

Vergessen Sie Manhattan!

Unter dem Titel "Dencity" fährt eine New Yorker Aktionsgruppe die Kunstszene in den Stadtteil Williamsburg. Mit Laptops und DJs begibt man sich auf die Suche nach verfallenen Fabrikgebäuden und Müllaufbereitungsanlagen

Ankommen? Gibt es nicht. Keine Szene, die am Busfenster vorüberzieht, wird so bleiben, wie sie ist. Schon werden einige Etagen der rohen, verfallenen Fabrikgebäude umgebaut zu offenen Studioräumen, mit Holzböden, geweißelten Wänden und Heißluftgebläsen. Für 1.500 Dollar Mindestmiete im Monat reißen sich die New Yorker Jungkreativen darum, einziehen zu dürfen in dieses für lange Zeit vergessene Hinterland zwischen Brooklyn, Queens und Long Island City - fern von Supermärkten, Cafés und jeder Infrastruktur. Aber wen stört es schon, statt eines Waschsalons eine Müllaufbereitungsanlage ums Eck zu haben, wenn er sich endlich ein wenig so fühlen kann wie die ersten Pioniere, die vor fünf, sechs Jahren aus Manhattans East Village über den Fluss hinüberzogen nach Williamsburg.

Heimo Lattner, Erin McGonnigle und René Gabri, die mit ihrer "Dencity"-Bustour die noch unentdeckten Gegenden der Stadt zum Beobachtungsgebiet machen, gehörten zu denen, die vor einigen Jahren auf der Suche nach billigem Wohnraum die Fabriken, Lagerhäuser und Arbeiterbuden Brooklyns entdeckten. Damals dachten sie nicht im Traum daran, dass "hier einmal die Leute mit Krokohandtaschen entlangschlendern und Williamsburg zum artifiziellen Konsumviertel wird". - "Es ist noch gar nicht so lange her, dass Williamsburg vor allem wegen seiner Verschmutzung, durch leer stehende Lagerhäuser und wegen der hohen Verbrechensrate bekannt war", schildert Lattner.

Die Künstler ließen sich davon nicht stören. Sie zimmerten ihre Wohnräume und Studios aus Sperrmüll und billigen Materialien zusammen und begannen den rauhen Charme des Industrie- und Arbeiterviertels mit Boheme-Ambiente weichzuzeichnen. Lattner, derzeit Stipendiat am Whitney Museum of American Art, stellte Holzboxen, die seinem Loft-Zimmer nicht unähnlich sahen, in Londons ICA und dem Musée dArt contemporaine in Lyon aus. Ex-Whitney-Stipendiat Gabri nutzte die Industrielandschaften als Drehort für seine Videos. Und McGonnigles Soundperformances gewannen vor dem Hintergrund der verfallenen Fabrikgebäude noch an Nachdruck.

Doch was vor fünf Jahren als echtes Abenteuer anfing, bereitete am Ende das perfekte Gelände für einen Yuppie-Abenteuerspielplatz vor. Den unabhängigen Off-off-Galerien folgten Cafés und Boutiquen. Williamsburg ist zum neuen Szeneviertel New Yorks geworden. Und wer von den ehemaligen Fabrikarbeitern nicht das Glück hat, ein Zimmer untervermieten zu können, musste längst in eines der Viertel ziehen, das weiter weg ist von der Subway und der tollen Sicht auf die Skyline von Manhattan. An Orte also, die für die neuen Williamsburger nicht wirklich von Interesse sind - zumindest noch.

"Natürlich machen wir uns Gedanken darüber, ob wir mit unserer Bustour nicht den Leuten genau die Stadtteile zeigen, die zu den nächsten Szenevierteln werden könnten und damit die Abdrängung beschleunigen", meint Lattner. Aber aufhalten lässt sich der Prozess ohnehin nicht mehr. Das einzige, was die drei Gründer der Künstlergruppe e-xplo mit ihrer Performance bewirken können: dem Publikum die Augen öffnen für die Existenz der Hinterstadt, für die Unterwelt, für Daten und Fakten, Geschichten und Hintergründe, die längst verdrängt wurden aus dem Alltag der auf Party, Unterhaltung und Konsum fixierten Szenewelt. Gabri hofft zumindest, dass "die Leute gezwungen werden, sich und ihre Umwelt in Frage zu stellen".

Schon der Begriff "Dencity" macht den weiten Rahmen kenntlich. Zusammengesetzt aus "dense" (dicht, gedrängt, beschränkt), "den" (Lager, Höhle, Bau) und "city" (Stadt) wird hier nicht nur mit den Worten gespielt: So führt die nächtliche Bustour heraus aus dem Teil Williamsburgs, wo sich die Szene so gemütlich eingenistet hat, damit klar wird, wie groß die Bedrängnis und Enge außerhalb der eigenen Grenzen ist.

Wie Touristen werden die Performance-Teilnehmer in einem Luxusbus herumgefahren. Doch statt als Fremdenführer die vorbeiziehenden Sehens(un)würdigkeiten zu erläutern, mixen Lattner und McGonnigle auf ihren Laptops live Straßenaufnahmen, Geräusche und Klangversatzstücke zu Electronica. Mit diesem Sound untermalt, führt die Tour an verfallenen Fabrikgebäuden vorbei, durchs schäbige Hinterland von Manhattan, dessen Skyline sich hin und wieder als spektakuläres Panorama hinter einer Mauer, einem Stacheldrahtzaun oder einem alten Friedhof erhebt. Irgendwann passiert der Bus auch ein paar der insgesamt achtundzwanzig Müllaufbereitungsanlagen, die innerhalb eines Umkreises von knapp neun Kilometern in und um Williamsburg herum verteilt sind. Den Schwefelgeruch der mit Abgasen geschwängerten Luft, die sich über den Wasserbecken einer der Anlagen ansammelt, können nicht einmal die Lüftungsanlagen im Luxusbus wegfiltern.

Williamsburg ist eine der verseuchtesten Gegenden von New York City. Aus einem lecken Tank flossen vor ein paar Jahren 75,7 Millionen Liter Öl und Benzin in den Boden. Die Schadstoffkonzentration ist 60-mal so hoch wie der Landesdurchschnitt für bewohnte Gegenden, und täglich kommen 46 Prozent aller Emissionen der Stadt dazu. Die Krebs- und Asthmaraten sind hier mit am höchsten. "Ich kann gar nicht glauben, wie jemand in Williamsburg seelenruhig mit dem Kinderwagen einen Schaufensterbummel machen kann", meint Lattner. Eine junge Frau ist dagegen schlichtweg begeistert vom spröden Reiz der Altlasten-Architektur: "Hier würde ich gerne leben", sagt sie. "Das wäre cool." Vielleicht geht ihr Wunsch demnächst schon in Erfüllung.

taz Nr. 6352 vom 22.1.2001, Seite 14, 193 Zeilen, TAZ-Bericht JOSEFINE KÖHN

iMusicWeek, PLAYER: Interactive Music On & Off the Web
DENCITY - Check out this live performance of electro-acoustic music on a nightly bus tour through New York's hidden landscapes. The producers of the DENCITY project are interested in exploring the relations between our point of departure, Williamsburg and some of the surrounding neighborhoods that have remained on the periphery of most experiences of NYC. Navigate through these spaces with sound that is generated on the bus and sounds that have been collected "on site". Wired magazine's Diana Michele Yap says: "A new, nighttime bus tour, Dencity forces unsuspecting riders to see the shivery desolation of outlying industrial areas, while live minimalist electronic music clatters and blips from the fingertips of avant-garde artists."
Now this sounds interesting... a live performance of electro- acoustic music on a nightly bus tour through New York's hidden landscapes. Have we gotten your attention yet? The bus starts and ends at Parker's Box in Williamsburg (of course, only Brooklynites are this cool!) Self-described as "the contemporary urban equivalent of an explorer's notebook - a kind of Huck Finn on land." Sure, you can always watch Saturday Night Live re-runs, or maybe venture something new...


From Peek Reveiw:


Baltimore Arts Community (and other special guests) Pick Personal Faves and Raves from the year 2000.

Here are the responses to our community query per this past years top 5 favorite events, exhibitions, or any experience which shook the viewers boots. Some folks gave us the requested list of five, some less and some more. We have printed the testimonials in the exact order we received them. If you have not sent us your own personal fave-rave 2000 list and wish to be included E-mail it to us at:

Peter Walsh:

"Palace of Projects" - Ilya And Emilia Kabakov, Public Art Fund @ the 69th Regiment Armory, New York.

An extraordinarily expansive installation of 65 "invented" projects inside a glowing white construction based on Vladimir Tatlin's "Monument to the Third International" (1928). Amazing. I went three times.

"Yes" - Yoko Ono, Japan Society Gallery (till January 14, 2001) New York.

I love Yoko Ono. Full of humor and elegance, this retrospective truly deserves to be called "generative" because it fills the mind with such a sense of possibility. "WAR IS OVER! If you want it. Happy Christmas from John and Yoko" is one of my faves and a legendary work of public art.

Pia Lindman's transplanted sauna @ PS1.

Finnish artist Pia Lindman brought an altered version of her hometown vernacular culture right into the heart of the artworld - the outdoor sculpture area at New York City's PS1 Art Center. Baking yourself naked in a wooden box in the middle of a gallery space is something I'd recommend to everyone.

"Playing Through" - Charles McGill @ Gallery M, New York.

I spent a wonderful Saturday afternoon watching former Maryland Institute grad student and artist McGill as he golfed his way across Harlem dressed in hilarious black-and-white argyle attire. Funny, well executed and full of meaning.


A nighttime artist-designed bus tour (with a full-sized tour bus!) across Brooklyn and Queens accompanied by a live electronic "soundtrack." The journey took participants past trash dumps, sewage plants and cemeteries - some with spectacular panoramas of Manhattan. The "other" view of how industry functions.

The project is the brainchild of Rene Gabri, Heimo Lattner and Erin McGonigle, three Williamsburg artists who wanted to show a face of their neighborhood that differs from its latest image as one of the city's hottest places to live. The result is Dencity, a nighttime musical bus tour that focuses on the neighborhood's industrial sites.

"It's the urban equivalent of an explorer's notebook," Ms. McGonigle said, "a kind of 'Huck Finn' on land."

A dozen trips were offered on weekend evenings in November and December, in which more than 700 people (at $15 a person) were trundled through the neighborhood. The events proved so popular that advance reservations were required and an additional bus was added for the final outing of the year. (The tours are to resume in March.)

To provide the soundtrack for the tour, the artists spent nearly three months recording sounds from Williamsburg's streets the rumble of the subway, the clatter from cars and factories. Then they mapped a route synchronized with the music.

The hourlong trip begins and ends in front of Parker's Box Gallery on Grand Street, in the heart of the neighborhood. As the chartered bus winds through narrow, darkened streets, the only sound is the constant clattering of high-pitched electronic music, which mixes with the street sounds. There is no narrator.

The stark images of recycling plants and waste management sites seen through the bus windows seem more suitable for the walls of a museum of photography than for a roster of tourist hot spots. "It's kind of an absurd anti-tour," Ms. McGonigle acknowledged. "We're showing places you wouldn't see on a tour."

As the bus meanders around eerily desolate streets and junkyards, the soundtrack reinforces the atmosphere, alternating from the sound of jackhammering to the rush of running water. Near the end of the drive, as the bus passes a sprawling cemetery juxtaposed against a bright Manhattan skyline, the recorded sound of rattling subway cars drifts up the aisle.

Mr. Gabri navigates from the front of the bus while Ms. McGonigle and Mr. Lattner synchronize the music on a laptop computer from the back of the bus. On each tour, the bus travels along different streets and the sound is mixed in different ways.

The "tourists" include a mix of artists, Williamsburg residents, visitors from Manhattan and even some children. Some, like Patrick Barnhart, a policy analyst whose specialty is recycling, attend for professional reasons.

"It's so interesting," said Carolyn Christov-Bakergiev, a curator at the P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center in Long Island City, Queens, "because it blends fact and fiction in a cinematic way."




As we boarded t e plush Mercedes bus in front of Williamsburg's SouthFirst gallery one recent evening, we were advised to "sit toward the middle" by Erin McGonigle, one of e-Xplo's three artists. "The bus is wired [for sound] in the front and back," she explained.

Once we got moving, the grit and grime of industrial Williamsburg gave way to the high-risk, perpetual motion of the BQE, and the silence on the darkened bus surrendered to sputtering electronic static, provided from the back of the bus by McGonigle and Heimo Lattner, one of her e-Xplo partners. The other, Rene Gabri, coordinated the route with the driver, reacting to traffic and aiming to keep the bus at or close to 65mph. The music picked up tones pierced walls of static and flu noises took flight as the bus eurged beneath us. Somehow, everything outside looked different, as if we were seeing well-known landmarks and buildings for the first time. Bridge overpasses, the glittering tip of lower Manhattan, the waterfront's suddenly compelling buildings have these always been here? Over the Verrazano we went, slicing through a posh and quite surreal looking neighborhood of Staten Island the activity inside the houses seemed to be two worlds away before rounding a block and going right back the way we came.

"It isn't about taking people to a location," McGonigle explained later. "The highway used to facilitate [the movement] of people from one place to another is our destination. And because we aren't going anywhere, we aren't leaving anywhere either." The event followed e-Xplo's first bus-tour project, Dencity, which explored some of Brooklyn's desolate industrial sites last December. Although e-Xplo has yet to plan another NYC excursion, the three are hoping to conduct similar tours through L.A.'s clogged arteries next February.

Our knees wobbled a little as we got off the bus in front of the gallery. People waited to board for the next trip. "What's the bus for?" asked a curious onlooker. "Moving people," I responded honestly. "But where's it going?" he persisted, and Gabri, leaning in the bus's entrance, answered mischievously: "To the highway."

Mike Wolf

© 2001



For four weekends this winter, the Dencity Bus Tour made its pilgrimages through the city’s trash and raw sewage. The ride, says Rene Gabri, one of the three artists who conceived and produced the tour, was meant “to interrogate the format of the tour itself, which relies on verbal information that is often incorrect anyway.” His collaborators, Erin McGonigle and Heimo Lattner, produced the live soundtrack, largely made up of samples taken from the industrial area itself.

According to Gabri, the tour evokes what wireless gadgetry promises to provide: “Moving through space, yet having a constant stream of information.” But all tours do that, or at least they try. Unique to Dencity is the detachment and illusory sense of privacy encouraged by the atmospheric music and darkness. On the bus that night, one couple made out, another gossiped, while others stared out the windows. Without the unifying element of a tour guide to produce a sense of community, Dencity has hit on, perhaps accidentally, a lonely vision of a supposedly hyperconnected world where each person has electronic access to all varieties of data, anytime, anywhere.

The Dencity bus tour and several other art expeditions have recently been making the metaphor of mobility material. Mobility as lifestyle has become ever more common in the past half-dozen years as portable electronic inventions allow us to roam further, with greater frequency, for both work and play. At the same time, global tourism has taken hold as a major wage-earning sector for some and a regular pastime for others. Nomad-themed art plays with these two dominants of contemporary life: the international, wireless culture of businesspersons, artists, entrepreneurs, and writers shuttling between Los Angeles, London, and Lagos; and the booming tourist culture that at times seems infected with a case of “scopophilia,” as Gabri puts it‹pleasure in looking, particularly at others.

The Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI) in Culver City, CA, has also offered a series of on-the-road looks at waste-related scenery. The combination artists’ collective/rock-collecting club launched a self-guided tour in 1995 with their project “Suggested Photo Spot.” The “picture spot” was invented by Kodak, says CLUI director Matt Coolidge, “in order to put their logo up in national parks.” CLUI’s minimalist signs suggest tourists stop and notice more than the area’s inherent beauty.

The project planted 50 signs across the country, from the Trojan Recreation Area and Nuclear Power Plant in St. Helens, Oregon, to the Kodak Waste Water Treatment Plant in Rochester, New York, where CLUI’s sign informs visitors that “Kodak’s industrial waste water is treated at this plant in the beautiful Genesee River” and that “local lore has it that film can be developed in this water.” The satire offers pointed instructions to look beyond the “beautiful river” into its history within the landscape, both corporate and natural. Like many of CLUI’s projects, “Suggested Photo Spot” transcends the limits of representational art to bring viewers to the actual site of confrontation, where myths of business and government neutrality, even beneficence, toward the environment are readily exposed.

Most recently, CLUI contributed to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles’ Flight Patterns show, taking museum visitors on a bus two hours inland to their Desert Research Station. The Flight Patterns tours involved an official guide (although visitors could drive to the staffed station on their own), who pointed out land uses of the region, from the freeway to Fontana’s steel industry. “We’re talking about erosion, flood control, industrial development,” says Coolidge. “Heading out into the desert, we try to read the physical vestiges of contemporary history on the landscape.” CLUI’s bus ride was more didactic than Dencity’s, but, says Coolidge, they didn’t “spoon feed” people. “It’s important to initiate an interpretative process,” he says. Additional CLUI tours have been “taken to ridiculous extremes,” says Coolidge. “We’ve taken tours that cover over 500 miles in a day and kind of wear people out. It’s kind of an adventure, an odyssey.”

The voyeurism of the tourist on these buses, traveling past unglamorous, often desolate areas, can turn self-reflective. As the Dencity bus passes through neighborhoods where nearly as many people live as tons of waste are transferred on a daily basis, “you feel suddenly uninvited,” says Erin McGonigle, the sound artist who recorded most of the samples for the electronic mix. “We were cautious about fetishizing the spaces,” says Gabri. “There’s a lot of power being able to be in this bus. Mobility is a privilege, people pay for it.”

Of course, the inverse of the empowered, self-propelled tourist is the refugee, the person involuntarily displaced. Gabri himself is originally from Iran; his family fled the country during the 1979 revolution.

A bus project directly addressing the difference between choosing to move and having to move was proposed by artists Renata Stih and Frieder Schnock in 1995 for Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial Competition. Bus Stop: The Non-Monument engendered controversy even though it was never produced. In the proposal, buses would pull up to the vast, empty space under the Brandenburg Gate in the center of Berlin. There, a waiting hall would offer digitally displayed histories of the destinations, the names of which would also flicker across the buses: Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Bergen-Belsen, the death camps of Nazi Germany. A requirement for the competition was the inclusion of the official project name, which was “The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.” As Schnock has pointed out, placing this phrase on the buses would make it a memorial in perpetual motion. In effect, tourists would replicate the constant state of transit that the Jews endured during the Holocaust, as they either fled the Nazis or were shipped to camps. Although their proposal placed 11th out of 528 in the memorial competition (with Peter Eisenman’s “real” monument chosen for construction), it was a public favorite. In 1996, the artists published a 128-page bus timetable that listed the sites that could be reached on current public transportation.

Stih and Schnock are known for antimemorials, or nonmonuments, an idea which latches on to the inevitable change of time and context as our most fundamental reality. Many have argued these structures don’t remember events but bury them in myth. Writers and artists in Germany, still sensitive to the memory of Albert Speer and the Nazi fixation with grand gestures, are particularly aware of the loaded meaning colossal monuments can contain. The traditional concept of a monument only encourages people to contemplate a hulking stone building and an abstracted past; nonmonuments instead create the memorial as process. Rather than distance the viewer, Bus Stop invites participation in that process which, like the Dencity bus tour or CLUI’s ride to the desert, makes travel and the passage of time essential to the art. Tracking the hours, minutes, and seconds in a world where the pace of change seems to compress time itself is the theme of Darren Almond’s Mean Time (2000), a shipping container with a digital display continually ticking off Greenwich Mean Time. The artist rode with the container, linked to a Global Tracking Satellite, from London to New York for his show at Matthew Marks Gallery last fall, documenting the journey with photographs, as well as drawings of the night sky. Almond’s drawings allude to an older tradition of triangulating distance at sea by observing the sun and stars; after the 18th century, longitude was determined by calculating the time difference relative to Greenwich. Only in the past few years have mariners been able to rely on GPS. While Almond’s outsized clock mechanically ticked off the time in England, he was honoring an ancient system of navigation, by taking notations on the sky.

Also journeying to New York City in a freight container was the art collective etoy, best known for the “Toy War” waged when an American online toy store tried to take the European art group’s domain name. The etoy.TANK, one of four bright orange containers sent for a spring show at Postmasters Gallery, is “the office, studio, hotel, storage, and webserver at the same time,” according to the group’s Agent Zai. Members of the group, spread across Switzerland, Germany, and California, reside in these “walk-in webservers” when participating in exhibitions. While the tank provides a physical manifestation of the group’s nomadic nature, the website hosts etoy. TIMEZONE, an online Twilight Zone where minutes count 100 UNIX seconds and a midday time embargo halts the clock for an etoy hour. “TIMEZONE,” writes the group, “is the solution to the insanity of the continuous physical travelling through international time zones, for time shifts in international markets and to the problem of getting older.” Through the eyes of artists like etoy, Dencity, CLUI, and Almond, nomadism today is as much about keeping up with a vision of ourselves and the time we’re constantly losing as it once was about tracking basic things‹food, weather, water‹across the land.

One need not be a member of etoy, however, to travel with attention to one’s creature comforts. With the global traveler in mind, New York’s OPENOFFICE and Denmark’s cOPENhagenOFFICE / Tanja Jordan created the NorthousEastWest (NhEW). The NhEW is a portable dwelling unit, custom-designed for around $7,000, that makes almost as much sense in crowded Manhattan as on the cold expanses of Greenland, where it got its inspiration from Inuit dwellings. Made of an aluminum frame, wood base, aluminum and plastic paneling, with a sealskin rug optional, the entire house can be packed up quickly into a crate. Inside her NhEW, the mobile citizen is at home in the world, no longer a tourist moving through someone else’s garbage-strewn, contaminated community



The idea of "Picnolepsy" appears to be a "tour" whose soundtrack mystifies rather than demystifies its route, and on that level, it's not much more than a novelty. Questioning the assumptions of the tourist-bus medium is a clever idea, but that requires more than occasionally announcing, "And, on your left . . . " without a follow-up or referent. An anonymous voice talked obliquely about "events" and "surprise," followed by the sound of an immense explosion, as we drove past the ruins of the World Trade CenterÑyes, we get it already.

(e-Xplo note: unfortunately he did not get it... that is, the events being spoken about and referenced in the text sections including soldiers sitting on turrets of tanks, and men and women being separated, men being taken to a stadium, etc... were in reference to Sabra and Chatila and an article by Robert Fisk, ... a different tragedy, in a different city, i.e., Beirut, in a different time... for more info about the project click here)

Other than some spoken text, drawn-out timbres of no obvious provenance wriggled slowly out of the speakers for most of the trip; for the first hour or so, the sounds didn't seem to have much to do with the particular things we were seeing, and the rattle of the bus's frame occasionally passed for an interesting detail. Maybe the performers ran out of text half an hour before the end of the tour, or maybe it was planned that way. In any case, as the distraction of language receded and the soundtrack's drones and rumbles immersed the accidental ambient noise, the piece finally clicked, and every building and pedestrian became part of a long tracking shot. By the end, the view from the bus was something like the unreal city e-Xplo hinted at: an animation, a hallucination, part of the grand show. (Douglas Wolk)



The three guides are all visual and sound artists. Two, Erin McGonigle and Heimo Lattner, sit in the rear surrounded by a laptop, CD players and mixers. Rene Gabri, the third guide, is in front studying road maps. He has listened to traffic reports and has told the bus driver the route — which is never the same.

Think it sounds a little unusual for an art performance? Think again. 65 MPH ``Exilerated Voyages Into the DETOURS of Pure Chance'' is the eclectic threesome's second round of sound-art bus tours. Its title plays on the word ``exile'' and promotes the idea that leaving a place is sometimes a necessity.

E-Xplo, as the trio is called, wants the tour to encourage people to think about the wonderful world of roads — what they mean in an era of mass travel and movement, and how they are a powerful symbol of departure.

The tour format was chosen because most people are familiar with the concept, Gabri says. And the theme the group chose was one about departure and whether the decision to leave was a choice or not.

The sounds and noises that cling-clang through the bus are the tour's narrator, Gabri says.

The trio collected everyday noises from the road, used sounds from the first bus tour — a trip through the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn last year — and other noises to create the narration. At the back of the bus, McGonigle and Lattner enter their sounds into the system.

Drip, drip, shuuup. The sounds of water trickling and the opening and closing of a faucet slide out of the sound system.

The show begins.

Rip, rip, the ripping of clothes and wring, wring, the wringing out of wet ones are the sounds that jar the atmosphere of anticipation. The bus turns onto a road that goes beneath a highway overpass.

Homeless people covered in blankets congregate and a lone skateboarder directs his board under the shadow of the street lights. Boom, boom; boom, boom; the beating of a heart.

A fire truck with two men inside sits under the overpass. The sounds of the screeching of train brakes, people speaking through walkie-talkies and a distant police siren can be heard. As the bus picks up speed, the siren becomes louder.

Acceleration, and the bus is on the freeway. The sounds of someone flicking a cigarette lighter and the drone of horns and bus noises, glide through the sound system.

Looming white lights ahead, the bus crosses the Triborough Bridge. Midtown Manhattan is to the left.

Alarms sound as the bus passes the ``Welcome to the Bronx'' sign. Cheers go up from the passengers.

With all the noises, the changing from freeways to two-lane roads to a bridge, confusion starts to grip some of the passengers.

``Where ... are we?'' one man asks.

``I have no idea,'' responds a woman sitting next to him.

Although everyone on the bus knows that they are on a round-trip tour, Gabri says that just as in life, the route itself can present detours and experiences of pure chance.

Gabri makes snap decisions to take an exit or detour, or to have the driver accelerate or slow down.

The tour is about ``having a destination in mind, but not knowing what that will bring,'' McGonigle agrees, noting that the sound performance itself is not programmed, but in many ways, ``very much a live improvisation.''

Back on the road: cemetery on the left; cars fly by. The bus glides past a church with stained glass windows that shimmer in the dark. Light-colored tombstones appear. Ding, ding, the music chimes.

The wind howls.

The idea of the highway as an escape on the one hand, and a source of possible danger — such as car accidents — on the other, unsettle the would-be traveler, McGonigle says.

``The tour is not so much about sights, as it is about the unseen,'' she says.

A toll plaza sits in what feels like the middle of nowhere — far from New York City. Water is all around. Drip, drip, the sound of water slips through the bus. A full moon shines down. The white lights of an upcoming bridge dot the roadway.

On the bridge, then off. The bus takes a series of roads, expressways and connections.

A buzzing, static-sounding noise grows louder and louder as the end of the tour approaches. The bus races along to the finish and the sound intensifies: ``Sssssssss ...''

After almost one very full hour, the noise — abruptly — stops.

Silence reigns as the bus pulls in. But the sounds seem to linger.



TORINO L«APPUNTAMENTO , verso le 10 di sera, in piazza Castello. Si aspetta un pullman da turismo bianco e nero con la scritta Valsusa Tour. Si sale e un artista spiega che vedremo una Torino che non conosciamo. Il pullman parte e ci si ritrova per le strade della periferia operaia, si va verso via Livorno: dove c«erano le ferriere Fiat ora c« l«enviroment park, cumuli di terra e scavatrici sotto la luna (sembrano allegre al contrario di quelle pasoliniane), insegne di McDonald«s e carceri delle Vallette, lo stadio delle Alpi che somiglia a un«astronave e prostitute nere lungo i viali, nuovi capannoni industriali e vecchie fabbriche dismesse, tralicci dell«alta tensione, benzinai self-24 ore e atmosfere tra Ghirri e Hopper (Edward o Dennis a scelta). Ad accompagnare l«emozione del viaggio musiche elettroniche e spezzoni di sonoro di film come Riso Amaro. Peccato che ad ogni cunetta il generatore di suoni vada in crisi e a un certo punto, in via Reiss Romoli, si rompa del tutto, i presenti vengono riportati in centro e invitati, se vogliono sapere come va a finire, a ritornare la sera dopo. Il tour musicale, ideato dal gruppo tedesco e-Xplo, mette in relazione la musica con la cittˆ, la memoria con le trasformazioni in atto ed  un esempio di come l«arte possa sposarsi con la societˆ:  questo il tema portante del Big Social Game, la biennale dei giovani artisti, curata da Michelangelo Pistoletto (affiancato per le arti visive da Giacinto di Pietrantonio). Il cuore della manifestazione, che intreccia arte visiva e spettacolo, cinema, danza e gastronomia  tra la Cavallerizza, le antiche scuderie sabaude, e piazza Castello, area riprodotta nel logo (sembra uno strumento musicale), disegnato dallo stesso Pistoletto. L«obiettivo  indagare, attraverso 90 installazioni, decine di spettacoli, cene e perfomance, il complesso rapporto che lega l«arte e il sociale. Per questo in piazzetta Reale, la Brigata Tognazzi, ha realizzato Dumia, una leggera struttura metallica, che prende nome dal centro sorto nel 1972 in Israele, dove si trovano a pregare musulmani, ebrei e cristiani. All«inizio di via Roma sventola su uno striscione la scritta ÇAmoreÈ da un lato in ebraico e dall«altro in arabo, di Dafna Moscati. E altri striscioni ben pi drammatici con scritte come ÇSharon BoiaÈ o ÇLaden is the bestÈ campeggiano alla Cavallerizza nell«installazione di Lyn Lowenstein, che raccoglie i materiali di recenti manifestazioni di piazza. Molte delle opere sono state realizzate dopo una permanenza di giovani artisti a Torino: c« chi come Cristiano Berti propone le fotografie dei luoghi della cintura dove sono state ritrovate prostitute uccise e chi, come l«olandese Lara Almarcegui, le immagini degli orti che costellano lungo ferrovie e fiumi, la periferia urbana. Sembra un bancone da lotteria della Festa dell«Unitˆ l«installazione Visita e vinci del francese Matthieu Lorette che espone oggetti donati dagli sponsor di Big (mountain bike e televisori, bottiglie di champagne e scatole di biscotti) e li mette in palio tra i visitatori. Vestiti vecchi vengono invece riciclati dalla stilista Pietra ( una delle figlie di Pistoletto) nel suo fashion atelier, in vista della grande parata finale che chiuderˆ, il 19 maggio, la kermesse. Les assembleurs du vide costruiscono come termiti strutture in legno e lasciano ai visitatori la possibilitˆ di distruggerle o di affiancarsi nella realizzazione di nuove forme. Il paese ospite non  geografico ma telematico: Internet. Cos“ la croata Andreja Kuluncic permette di inventare la propria societˆ ideale, ridistribuendo virtualmente le risorse del pianeta, gli spagnoli Manava invitano invece a scegliere la propria sepoltura ideale e i loro computer sono installati su soffice terra. Un sudario particolare, una sindone con la propria radiografia e due teschi argentati sono esposti dagli svizzeri Com&Com nella cripta mozzafiato dell«Archivio di Stato. Un lavoro emozionante sulla memoria individuale e collettiva  firmata dal marocchino Yto Barrada in due serie di diapositive: in una ripercorre, un po« alla Nan Goldin, la propria vita: vestito da torero a cinque anni, ragazzo con i parenti nel tinello di casa, adolescente con una ragazza sul bordo d«una piscina; nell«altra proietta le immagini Anni 50 di militari marocchini. Non mancano le curiositˆ come le cabine rotolanti, in cui un«artista si muove nella cittˆ o le case di cartone che Oscar Leo Kaufmann pensa di offrire agli homeless cittadini. Ed  anche arrivata la signora Krijnen, ambasciatrice delle donne divorziate, mentre Cristoph Draeger e Reynold Reynolds, allestiscono una stanza per chi ha la passione degli eventi catastrofici. Ci si pu˜ vestire quasi da clown tecnologici con le Architetture da indossare della Foam Organization, peccato che due vestiti su tre non funzionino. Big offre lo spaccato d«un arte giovane incerta sul proprio futuro ma di cui  facile rintracciare le tracce nel passato: concettuali e situazionismo, body art e ready made, arte povera e performance. Molto presente la fotografia, quasi assente la pittura. E questa sembra la grande differenza con mostre mercato come Artissima, Artefiera o Arco, dove certo non mancano gli artisti under 35 (pensiamo alle Project Room madrilene). Improponibile, al di lˆ delle ambizioni degli organizzatori, il paragone con biennali come quella di Venezia o di Lione (anche se il budget non  poi cos“ distante).

Rocco Moliterni




Art On Wheels Exhibit Moves Audience
by John E. Mitchell


The trolley moved down River Street to the sound of old workers talking about chemical warfare -- moving further, kids begin to talk about fun and fighting in their neighborhoods. As we approach Price Chopper, a cellist performs. It is unusual for tourists anywhere to be invited into the inner life of the community-- that sort of knowledge takes time and care that you can't find on vacation. The trolley ride is simulating that time intensive journey.
The voices compete with the bus rattles and squeaks and clinks and clanks, which makes it a fitting North Adams tour, I think: the sounds of industry doing their best to drown out the voices of the people. On the break at the Clark, the driver tells me that the artists had never worked with such a rickety canvas, usually they have sleek, air conditioned buses, modern and quiet, creeping through the neighborhoods, antiseptic in a way and taking the passengers a dimension away from the space they are touring -- brought into the piece through the audio, yet alienated by the technology of passenger transportation. But that just wouldn't be North Adams, you know?
As if to accentuate the driver's point, I discover that the downpour outside is leaking through several points of the molding on the trolley, seeping down the wall and onto my seat and all over my stuff, a little bit of the atmosphere creeping in that says "No, you're not so unfortunate as to be confined to some dry and comfy-ultra-model-movie-star-level touring bus, you're having a real, gritty Northern Berkshires art tourism experience, now dry your pants."
The ride back calls Williams-town a factory, moving students -- instead of industrial creations -- through the line, but doesn't attempt to draw any more comparisons between the odd sister cities. As we traverse its neighborhoods, Williamstown just seems like a closed door, ancient and self-contained. The passengers on this trolley feel shut out. Silence says more than any narrative could -- what goes on behind those walls? We don't know.
Soon the audio begins personal historical narratives of the history of North Adams, an area unlivable and harsh area that was conquered for better or worse and then, once made urban, conquered yet again through urban renewal, as well as the closing of mills and factories.
"Everything is happening in front of you, you just have to be aware of it," offers one voice and he's right -- it's all in the real estate that surrounds us.
To a self-mythologizing place like North Adams, the tale of urban renewal is often told, but to tourists on this trolley, the question of whatever happened to the south side of downtown is asked. With this point, the voices really bring home the notion that the destruction of the south side highlights the trampled dreams that each person has and the lies we are all told to make us feel there will be a better tomorrow, even though no one, no politician, no cop, no clergy, no businessman can really promise with any surety.
As one voice points out, "the biggest game in town is real estate" and it is the backdrop to a hundred years of love, lives, lies, and loss. The story of North Adams could be summed up as a story of property ownership, but the trolley attempts to tear down these walls that been built up and which hide the people's history.
"This here's an unfinished story," muses one voice.
There is one unique aspect of Mass MoCA that is undeniable -- it is a rare art museum that proactively makes its location part of its work and installations, examining the space the museum rests in with the hope of understanding and, perhaps, redefining that space in its future forward movement. What better metaphor for this relationship than a rickety old trolley featuring voices piped in though a laptop computer?
In fact, Mass MoCA's creation is a major turning point in North Adams' rich history of property ownership and, in this way, an existing reminder the story isn't quite over. One only needs to look at the local headlines to see that property ownership is as important as it ever was in the evolution of this city -- the mayor battles with landlords and slumlords, out-of-town developers buy up property, artists lofts take over old mills, or perhaps inexpensive housing coming to the area.
We're in the middle of the tale right now and the trolley is driving us through the incomplete set. Who knows when this thing is going to end, who knows if it will end happy or sad, and who knows who's going to be around to see it when it finally does?
No one, that's who, but through efforts like the Art Trolley, Mass MoCA is at least attempting to document history as it happens and give it perspective in the wider local meanings.
(by John E. Mitchell, copyright North Adams Transcript)




Levente Polyák
Exploring exploration

The members of e-Xplo, Rene Gabri, Erin McGonigle and Heimo Lattner, undertook, with the aid of “local experts”, and following several weeks of Budapest reconnaissance, and the gleaning of experiences and materials, to disclose for us through multimedia bus-trips “the unknown side of the city, the cultural and social stratification of Budapest”, in the same way they had done previously in New York, London, Turin and Rotterdam. The bus-trip attempted to shake up not only our view of the city, but moreover, our fundamental attitude concerning “others” that is traceable in our own city.
The concept of the e-Xplo bus refers directly to classic methods of discovering cities as occurs with the vehicle of the bus. Typical tourist routes that use narration as mere background noise, sightseeing “for professionals” with images illustrating a central problem formulated linguistically, and “bus performances ” experienced as events or spending time in company are all brought to mind equally. The route, the windscreen that has been turned into a viewing screen, the darkened “auditorium” of the bus and the sound-stream surging from the speakers are all fundamental, reflective components of the piece. The Budapest city- tour that has been christened Something About (Revolution) Repetition simultaneously makes assertions about the space that we traverse, about the words that connect to the emerging spectacles of the city, and about the images that transform the social milieu.
The route-narrative of the sightseeing excursion often connects similar things found in the city, or as in our case, exactly to the contrary, casts light upon the fault lines and contrasts. Moszkva tér (Moscow Square), the Chain Bridge, the National Theatre, Illatos út, Népliget (People’s Park): these are not simply illuminated or darkened clichés, postcard- and anti-postcard-landscapes, but each are mythical sites of Budapest, discussed again and again. These myths operate, however, in a way that is diametrically opposed: they each describe a different city; they tell the disparate stories of wealth, history, politics, as well as poverty and violence. This multiple mesh full of contrasts is shocking, even if over the course of the route, the illusion of the “spurious coherence” of a continuous film drives us into its trap.
Confronting the images of the outside world as beheld through the windows of the bus, sounds flow from the speakers: snatches of songs, noises, interviews recorded during the preceding weeks, or citations – from texts read in English, French and Hungarian. The relation of the sounds, however, is not unambiguous to the view connected with it, i.e., to the image of the part of the city in which the bus is just passing. It is not clear-cut, what we are hearing: is it film-music that intensifies the image before us, or is it rather acoustic elements that strive to dismantle that image? There are sounds that transform the images of the social reality before us into video- clips, while others topple us from our calm contemplation of the view: instead of providing its corresponding equivalent, its counterpoint is generated: modulating, metamorphosing, displacing, decomposing the view.
The bus-trip truly presents the city as a film. Before the lights are dimmed, we are asked to switch off our mobile phones and to behave as if we were in a cinema. The film-effect already begins to work in the first seconds of our departure, as we merge into the film, and our withdrawal from the world we are affiliated with is rendered almost flawless. The notorious slums nestling between abandoned factories, Illatos út, the distant isle of “chaos”, comes into view before us as a concentrated symbol of poverty and danger, as an “Elsewhere” that serves the myth of urban diversity. Our tour is an educational safari, in which we can examine the exoticised-aestheticised objects of our desire from the secure distance creating the illusion of filmic-sensation through the window. The prostitutes lined up at the petrol station, the thugs from chaos flexing their muscles in their landrovers, the patrolling policemen searching along the railway tracks with floodlights – they are all the characters of a “live” action film, the extras of a scene realised for the benefit of the gaze of the tour-passengers: the localised, innoculated stimulants of the pleasantly thrilling sensation of danger we feel in our backbones. “Finalement aucune aventure ne se constitue directement pour nous (Finally, no adventure proceeds directly for us)”– sounds from the speakers.
And into this idyllic, here and there idyllically shocking sightseeing, is interwoven that critical voice, which attacks not only the practice of transforming the world into its image, but also denounces the self-deprecating gesture of social critique as formulated in naïve pictures. Methods for this are dislocation, the establishment of distance, or if you like, alienating effects, be they intentional or inadvertent. But when the prostitutes standing alongside the petrol station unexpectedly wave back, or the searchlight of the cops on patrol along the railway tracks hits upon the ceiling of the bus, and the gaze of the gangsters lolling about on their enormous SUV’s meets with that of the tourists: the decors come to life! For a few moments, we too are present – they also see us: we are the performance. Neither the dissolution into images, nor the dislocation is constant. Neither the illusion, nor criticism is perfect. In this sense, the e-Xplo bus-trip advances in the fissure between merging into and estrangement: it dances between the homogeneous cityscape that obscures the contrasts and the meaningful area rich in detail, working on the mapping of the distance between the language treated as homogeneous background noise and recognised in its elements, and that which provides the opportunity for critique.
The recorded texts also play a part in the game of the approaching/distancing movement of the images. Extracts of a conversation with young rappers, jabber as invented English. French as invented jabberwocky. The momentary position, amalgamation or reservation, we have assumed in relation to the images depends upon what exactly we are watching, and what we have taken notice of. Do we see conflict there, where we are being shown homogeneity? Do we recognise the language in the uniform mass that envelops us?
“Tempo, tempo, tempo”, sounds the repetitive passage from László Moholy-Nagy’s Film Sketch (Filmváz) through the loudspeaker. The tempo, the rhythm, gives the modern city its dynamic; a secret organising force of a higher order, in which individual will ceases to stand autonomously. In the moving maelstrom of the crowd, people appear as mere staffage, as extras who have been divested of their names, simply geometric elements on the filmstrip. Disengagement, in both the mechanical and the visual sense. “Vicious circle. Very fast. The people thudding to the ground wobble unsteadily to their feet, only to board a train.” Machines revived to independent life. “On the roller-coaster, at the moment of the great dive, nearly everyone shuts their eyes. The camera, never. (...) This way of seeing is entirely new.” Images roused to independent life. “Tempo, tempo, tempo ”, sound the speakers, but the urban landscape beyond the windows is at variance with this: the street is mute, immobile, numbed in a trance, the only perceptible motion in it the slow swaying of the bus.
The recited scripts of Guy Debord, László Moholy-Nagy and Angelo Quattrocchi are texts that became autonomous without visual correspondents, without filmic development: “they did not lend themselves” to the process of becoming image. It is no wonder, then, if the film arbitrarily edited from the given elements of the city contradicts and disputes the images that present the city as a pure vision. The relationship established in this way between the text and image may be defined by the expression of “détournement” (aversion, deflection), which, as one of the fundamental concepts of the Situationists, primarily of the erudite social criticism of the 1950s and 60s, motivated its evocation in connection with Guy Debord’s text. The technique of dé tournement combines already existing elements into new ensembles, modified, “deflected” with the meaning of the individual elements. The Situationists often employed détournement in the context of film: the commentary subsequently appended to the film turns the meaning of the images inside-out; the layer of irony is brought to the surface of the images; the viewer is placed at a critical distance from them: the lies of the images are exposed, fashion and spectacle are dismantled to their elements, but even the representative stockpiles of fake revolution.
What we hear on the bus is Debord’s 1961 script, Critique de la séparation, his writing that battles against “institution”, the transpositions that render impossible encounter or direct experience. The history moulded to the urban space’s own model, the documentary film defining the city, the legend classifying the experiences, official information – they are all participants in the apparatus that impedes and alienates immediacy, intervention, adventure. All coherence truly is linked to the conclusiveness of the past, condemned to inactivity. Similarly to the work of memory and history, “the function of cinema is to present a false, isolated coherence” [1]. The essence of Debord’s point of view is anti-representation. His texts demand the denunciation of the world concealed from images; the inversion, substitution of appearance, “fictitious life” by real life. “Everything that was direct experience has now withdrawn in a representation” [2] – thus forewarns the diagnosis, the first thesis of Debord’s masterwork, Société du spectacle (Society of Spectacle).
Separation, disengagement, appears on two levels: on the one hand, in the estrangement, the alienation between individual people, in the potential for existence in the unfamiliar quarters of the city in our direct vicinity. On the other hand, however, precisely in the exoticism of this critique, in the non-intervention, the ultimate alienation from the social world altered into images, replaced by representations.
It seems that e-Xplo, though it obviously draws inspiration from the Situationists, does not identify with them. In the context of the bus-trip, the Debord-texts invert and deviate in just the same way as the illuminated cityscapes. Questions arise: Does unmediated reality exist? Is the pre-image, essentially immediate position accessible? It is by no means a certainty that the recognition of correlations automatically renders possible the occupation of an external, critical viewpoint. Is it possible – and is it necessary – to demolish the memory of art, the conventions of communication? Is it possible to bridge the distance dividing us from direct experience?
It is possible. Whether or not it is an ironic gesture, in any case, the break for a rest in the Népliget (People’s Park) is a welcome reprise. Nearly everyone alights from the bus. Those who have slept through the entire journey finally awaken now, stretching their limbs in the light drizzle. We step down from the screen with light movements: the outside world ceases to be a film. The fact that this return, this arrival back to the ground occurs in a “wood” situated in the centre of a city is not by chance, and is also interpretable as the sardonic, inverted answer to the question of proximity/distance. We have returned to reality, but we are further than ever. What succeeds after this is merely discharge, the stupefied way home through the narrow streets of the “Nyolcker” (Nyolcker is the shortened name for the notorious 8th district of Budapest, with a strong presence of Roma population. A favourite target for the exotist gaze of urban explorers, more accessible than the ’Dzsumbuj ’.).
The quoted passages derive from the scripts of: Guy Debord: “Critique de la separation” (In: Oeuvres cinématographiques complétes, Paris, 1994) and László Moholy-Nagy: Filmváz. Egy nagyváros dinamikája (Film Sketch: The Dynamic of a City; http://www.c3.hu/~bbsa/catalog/moholy/dinamik). For additional information on
e-Xplo, and their previous and planned exploratory trips, see: http://www.e-xplo.org
Translated by: Adèle Eisenstein
1 La fonction du cinéma est de présenter une fausse cohérence isolée.
2 “Tout ce qui était directement vécu s’est é loigné dans une représentation.” i

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